My Canon EOS-1D Mark III digital SLR went to the company’s repair facility in Newport News this past week for a photographic version of a factory recall.

Some early models of the Mark III had problems with the automatic focus (a new design on the model) so Canon launched a massive retrofit program that involved replacing the sub mirror assembly in the camera body on all early models. It meant sending my five-month old camera back to the factory service center and being without it for a few days.

"Few days" however, can be subject to interpretation. Canon promises a three day turnaround for working pros so I sent my camera off to Newport News via UPS next day air on their tab. According to UPS tracking, it arrived at the Canon facility at 8:11 a.m. on Friday, January 18.  However, it wasn’t logged into Canon’s repair system until the end of the day on Monday, January 21. OK, it was a weekend so no big deal.  The same system said the camera repair was completed by Tuesday, January 22 but Canon didn’t ship it until Wednesday and, for some reason, they chose FedEx two-day air to return the camera. That meant the camera goes from Newport News to Memphis and then back to Roanoke for Friday delivery — eight days after I sent it in. UPS ground can get it from Newport News to Roanoke in one day.

The "upgraded" camera arrived at our house Friday afternoon. I was out but Amy signed for it and I got home just in time to unpack it, stick in a freshly-recharged battery, and head back out to shoot the Floyd County High School basketball game and homecoming that night.

At the game, I put a telephoto lens on the camera, focused on the action, pressed the shutter release…and nothing happened.  An ominious message flashed in the viewfinder: Error 99.

Error 99 is one of the most dreaded messages that the user of a digital camera can receive. It’s a communications problem somewhere in the digital bowels of the camera. It also means the camera won’t work. I tried the recommended steps to try and correct the problem: turn the camera off and on, remove and reinsert the battery, change memory cards and/or lenses. Nada. Dead in the water.

Fortunately, I carry backup camera bodies so I put the new and improved Mark III away and went back to my trusty EOS-1Ds Mark II and a 40D to shoot the game and homecoming festivities.

When I got home I called the Canon "priority" support line and said, in a relatively calm tone, that "a week ago I sent you a working camera and you upgraded it to one that doesn’t work.  Why is that?"

The support tech apologized at least 10 times, got his boss on the line and they emailed me a UPS sticker to ship the camera out this morning via next-day air to the New Jersey repair facility.  They promised the problem would be repaired and the camera returned to me no later than Wednesday of next week.

Floyd, unfortunately, does not have Saturday pickup for next day air. So I will pack the camera back into the box that arrived just yesterday and truck over to Christiansburg or Roanoke to make the early deadline for next-day air pickup at one of the UPS stores, which also means cancelling two appointments for today with web site clients.

Ah, the joys of modern technologies.